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'How smart can you guys be? You missed the best player on the planet,' 

 

LESSON LEARNED: REMEMBERING HOW MIKE TROUT'S ROAD TO RED SOX WAS DETOURED

ROB BRADFORD

Fri, 05/22/2015

If you're a baseball scout, at some point you're going to get the Mike Trout question. It's a rite of passage Ray Fagnant knows all too well.

"I got into a discussion with a random fan at a game and they were saying, 'How smart can you guys be? You missed the best player on the planet,' " said the Red Sox' Northeast region scout. "I just said, 'You want to hear the real story?' "

It's a good question. How does the guy currently considered by many as the best baseball player on the planet last until the 25th pick in the 2009Major League Baseball amateur draft?

Or how about this one: Why wouldn't the Red Sox have selected Trout if he slipped to them four spots later? (A reality confirmed by multiple decision-makers involved in the Sox' draft at the time.)

"Nobody," Fagnant said, "could have predicted how good he would be."

With Trout ready to run around Fenway Park for the next three games, it is interesting to reflect on how the Red Sox, and the baseball world, viewed the outfielder heading into the '09 draft.

He has turned into a once-in-a-lifetime kind of talent. Someone who doesn't run but glides. A player who drives the baseball like few in the game. Even a defender who can be a difference-maker in the most spacious of outfields.

So, why would 24 players get taken before him that year? How could the White Sox take another outfielder, Jared Mitchell, just before Los Angeles selected the kid from Millville High School in New Jersey? And what would have led the Red Sox to lock in on Puerto Rican speedster Reymond Fuentes at pick No. 28 instead of hoping Trout slid?

Perhaps nobody can tell "the real story" better than scouts Fagnant and Danny Haas, along with one of Trout's former teammates, Jake Porcello (brother of Rick).

'THE ENERGY WAS INFECTIOUS'

Fagnant pieced it together right away. Trout not only was an energetic, ultra-athletic, soon-to-be junior in high school, but he also was the son of Jeff Trout, a former Twins minor leaguer who had been one of the best collegiate hitters in the country during his stint at the University of Delaware.

The Red Sox' Northeast scout got an even bigger taste of what the younger Trout had to offer after the pair's initial sophomore-year meeting. Playing in a showcase in Lakeland, Florida, the outfielder officially started making an impression on the former Red Sox minor leaguer.

"His athleticism stood out. Right away, the energy was infectious. He was just a great kid to talk to," Fagnant said. "He not only had tools, but he could play baseball. But what struck me most was the enthusiasm.

"We would always have extra hitting and everybody is full of energy the first few days, but then the third day comes and it's 102 degrees at 10 o'clock in the morning and he would be the only one out there. He loved to be around it."

The next October, however, presented perhaps the definitive impression.

Playing for Tri-State Arsenal in the wooden bat world championships in Jupiter, Florida, Trout started making his mark in the eyes of more than just a few area scouts.

To this day, Fagnant seamlessly recalls the at-bat. Trout punctuated a nine-pitch at-bat with a routine grounder to shortstop that resulted in a single thanks to 3.9-second speed down the first-base line. And, of course, that home run.

"He had a pitch he had no right hitting," the scout recalled. "He hit a 2-1 slider off the front porch of a house across a street."

"He hit a home run that went about 650 feet that went over a couple of apartments," said Porcello, a pitcher at the time on Trout's team. "The ball just sounded differently off his bat. And he made me look good a couple of times in the outfield. He was tremendous out there.

"Everybody knew the Trout kid," the New Jersey native added.

Fagnant and the Red Sox' Northeast/Upper Midwest regional crosschecker were sold. The more they saw, the more they liked.

For example, the day before the pair were scheduled to head to spring training, they called Trout to see if he would meet them at a facility 45 minutes from his house for a hitting session. No problem. 

"It was pretty clear in the batting cages that you could ask him to do things with the bat and he made adjustments pretty easily," Haas said. "Hit the ball to the right side, he could do it. Hit the ball up the middle, he could do it. Hit a line drive instead of a pop-up, he could do it. He picked things up really fast. ... He played really hard, harder than anybody else on the field

And when Fagnant returned north from Florida, Trout was made a priority. Even before the often-interrupted New Jersey high school baseball season started, he prioritized a scrimmage game because it was a chance to see the outfielder not draw a series of intentional walks. And, finally, came the freezing cold, mud-filled regular season.

"There weren't too many times I would make it a point to see a high school kid play on a Saturday in his first game of the season," Fagnant said. "But I stayed on him. I was kidding my wife that I saw him more that spring than I saw her."

And Fagnant's opinion of Trout wasn't solely formed on the baseball diamond.

"I learned from some of the veteran guys such a good research to watch these kids play other sports," he said. So he did, having took in one of Trout's basketball games against St. Augustine Prep, a team that started all NCAA Division 1 hoops prospects except one -- a future Penn State tight end.

"He absolutely battled," Fagnant noted. "There was one sequence he got rejected like six straight times and on the seventh he went up and scored. He's knocking people down, helping them up, and it showed a lot about his athleticism and joy of competing."

CONVINCING EVERYBODY ELSE

The Red Sox certainly didn't ignore the reports of Fagnant and Haas. That was crystal clear thanks to a visit by then-assistant general manager Ben Cherington.

"What stood out to me specifically was when Ben drove down to Millville and saw him one day, and it was a so-so day for Mike," Fagnant said. "He called that night and said, 'I know it was just a decent day but I know you like him so I'm going to stay and see him again.' What other type front-office person does that? That meant the world to me when I got that call from Ben.

"[Trout] was raw. The swing wasn't always pretty, but what he did notice about the swing was that it was four inches long. And he was so strong he would just ambush balls."

Make no mistake about it, there were plenty of roadblocks preventing an acceptance of Trout as a no-doubter.

First was the weather he had been playing in, and what it meant to transition from 6-foot-1 center on the Millville High hoops team to pitcher/shortstop/outfielder.

"We liked him a lot, but he is hitting for way more power than we could have imagined. And his arm was not great. That spring, he wasn't quite in baseball shape yet," Haas said. "Quite frankly, we saw him run better the summer before. He wasn't running in spring the way he had in summer because he wasn't quite in baseball shape. But it was cold. I remember talking to [current Red Sox director of international and amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye] down the left-field line and it was like 27 degrees at game time. I'm sitting there fumbling around, trying to put on my first Bluetooth [calling device] because I had these gloves on."

It was simply more comforting getting the chance to see a player play more baseball. Both Red Sox scouts had seen him a bunch. ("He was a kid who was fun to watch. He was fun to scout," Fagnant said. "I never dreaded that 5 1/2-hour drive to Millville because you always saw something good. it was fun to spend time with him.")

But there was a definition in seeing a kid like Fuentes, who was excelling in the year-round baseball-playing climate of Puerto Rico. 

"We just had less of an opportunity to scout Trout," Haas said. "Some of us thought we had more of a powerful outfielder in [Ryan] Westmoreland than we probably did. And you're sitting there watching Jacoby Ellsbury steal 40-50 bags in the big leagues and totally impacting the success of the organization and you would like to get that again. A lot of people probably thought here's the next Ellsbury."

In fact, Haas had Westmoreland -- another Northeast high school outfielder whom the Red Sox plucked out of Rhode Island in fifth-round of the 2008 draft -- rated better than Trout. And with that type of player already in the system, taking a first-round flier on a similar situation didn't seem necessary.

In Fuentes' case, he was a left-handed burner. "Would we have taken [Trout] there? We still probably would have taken Fuentes," Haas said. "Westy was starting to show big power. Westy popped up kind of late for us and [former Red Sox amateur scouting director Jason McLeod] called me and said, 'I think I just saw Larry Walker,' which was a good call. As big and strong and with the kind of arm Westy had you could easily see him playing in right field."

One early-round high school outfielder was enough. As much as he loved Trout, Fagnant got it then, and still gets it now.

"I knew that there was no way he was getting to us. [Angels scout and former teammate of Jeff Trout] Greg Morhardt was on him and I knew there was no way Anaheim was going to pass on him. Greg was always there.

"There was some rawness there. If anybody said today that you wanted to take him in the second round, that would have been perfectly correct. They're still correct. Nobody could have projected the development that he made. Even now you couldn't criticize anyone from saying we loved him but there were still so many variables. I understood from Day 1. High school, Northesast, right-handed-hitting outfielder -- that's just not a good fit. 

"Had he gotten to us and we wouldn't have taken him I would have understood completely, because every statistic in the industry is against a high school right-handed-hitting outfielder from the Northeast."

The rest is history.

Trout became the face of big league baseball. Fuentes ultimately was dealt to San Diego in the trade for Adrian Gonzalez, and now plays for the Royals' Triple-A affiliate in Omaha. Westmoreland's career came to an abrupt end due to surgeries to treat a cavernous malformation at his brainstem. And Mitchell, the outfielder selected by the White Sox just before Trout, was released by Chicago two weeks ago.

And, of course, the scouts still have their memories.

"You could go in there with one look at him early and say, hey, you've got a really good athlete from the Northeast who is a long way away. You know the demographic: a  high school, right-hand-hitting outfielder," Fagnant said. "But he would do something every day, though, that would light you up, something nobody else could do."

"He's just a great story," added Haas, "a great kid."

http://www.weei.com/sports/boston/baseball/red-sox/rob-bradford/2015/05/22/lesson-learned-remembering-how-mike-trouts-ro

 

“Sometimes, the business side of baseball beats you up,”

 

Arencibia trying to enjoy minors, return to MLB

 

 

GREG MERCER MAY 25, 2015, 10:30 AM


DURHAM, N.C. – It was opening day for the Norfolk Tides, the Baltimore Orioles’ triple-A affiliate, and J.P. Arencibia was in his hotel room getting ready to head down to the ballpark. Then came the knock at the door.

Ron Johnson, Norfolk’s manager, had come to deliver bad news. Arencibia, the former Toronto Blue Jays catcher who spent the spring fighting for a spot on Baltimore’s roster, was being cut.

“I was kind of blindsided by it,” he said. “He said ‘I’m releasing you. I’m embarrassed to be saying it, but this is what it is.’”

Arencibia thought he’d been promised a starting job within the Orioles’ organization. He’d already leased an apartment in Norfolk, shipped his car to the Virginia city, and was getting ready start the season in the minors while waiting for the call-up to Baltimore.

Instead, he was suddenly unemployed. Arencibia – who spent five years with the Blue Jays and Texas Rangers, hitting .207/.255/.403 with 74 home runs – packed up a U-Haul and went home to Nashville, worried his career was finished. He thought about going back to school, maybe pursuing broadcasting.

“Sometimes, the business side of baseball beats you up,” he said. “You learn more and more in this game that things can change in a minute. You learn to take it in stride and hope that another door will open.”

A week later, a new door did open. The Tampa Bay Rays called, offering a spot on their triple-A club, the Durham Bulls. Arencibia jumped.

In six weeks with the Bulls, the 29-year-old has been mostly used as a designated hitter and first baseman, while hitting .202/.246/.412. With seven home runs, he’s shown flashes of the power he displayed in Toronto, though those troubling strikeouts haven’t disappeared.

But Arencibia says he’s not sweating the numbers anymore. After his tenure in Toronto ended in bitterness and frustration, he’s said he’s trying to accept wherever the game takes him now.

“You get to a point sometimes where you’ve had enough sleepless nights, you’ve had enough anxiety problems, the pressures of the game, that you just want to enjoy whatever you have in front of you,” he said, sitting in the dugout at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Although he has a lot of good memories of his time in Toronto, there were some dark moments, too.

“No one was there when I was in my apartment, scared to go outside, and ordering food to my place because I was so embarrassed. I was embarrassed by trying to be so great and trying to perform so well, and when I wasn’t, I didn’t want to be seen in public,” he said.

The catcher admits the pressure and spotlight of playing in Toronto at a young age got to him, and made him miserable when his performance slipped. He says he’s more mature now, and reminds himself how lucky he is to still be playing professional baseball.

“I’m trying to enjoy every part of it now, as opposed to driving down Blue Jay Way with anxiety, wanting to make sure I could help the team win,” he said. “I got to a point where it wasn’t worth it to my health to be killing myself over it. That’s a part of the game that people don’t see.”

Arencibia says he still believes in himself, and doesn’t want to end up just another angry player in the minors, wondering what went wrong. He knows baseball is full of guys like that, so he’s trying to be grateful for a new chance to crack a big league roster and to relish each game along the way.

“Triple-A can be a pretty bitter place sometimes, with a lot of angry, older people who feel like the world is against them,” he said. “I try to be an example in the clubhouse here, and not to be that bitter, upset guy who thinks that baseball has done something wrong to them.”

He insists he doesn’t hold a grudge against the Orioles, even though he says manager Buck Showalter personally told him he was a part of the team’s future. Arencibia didn’t help his case by straining his forearm while lifting weights in spring training, an injury that kept him from performing the way he wanted to for Baltimore.

Like so many guys in the minor leagues, Arencibia would love another shot at the big leagues. But he says he’s also finally at peace with where he’s at now, too.

“I’m not the first person this has happened to in baseball, and I won’t be the last,” he said. “I know I still have the ability to help a team at the major-league level, so it’s just a matter of time… But at the end of the day, if this is the worst thing that can happen in baseball, then I’m still doing all right.”

http://www.sportsnet.ca/baseball/mlb/arencibia-trying-to-enjoy-minors-return-to-mlb/

 

"You're going to have some failure in the minor leagues, but you have to be able to say 'OK, that was one day', and let it go."

 

Pitcher Jacob Lindgren called up to Yankees only a year removed from college

By Ryan Hatch | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com on May 24, 2015  

NEW YORK — A year ago Yankees' left-hander Jacob Lindgren was pitching in the NCAA tournament for the Mississippi State Bulldogs, finishing off a first-team All-American season after starring in Starkville for three years.

Fast-forward 12 months and Lindgren was standing in the Yankees' clubhouse with his own locker, sandwiched between catcher John Ryan Murphy and first baseman Mark Teixeira.

"It's been a crazy ride," Lindgren said before theYankees-Rangers game on Sunday of his last year.

The Yankees called up Lindgren Sunday to the big league club to help an over-worked bullpen. The 22-year-old has starred at Triple-A this season; in 22 innings he has a 1.23 ERA and many feel he is in the Bronx to stay. His stuff is that good.

"You're not going to see people square the ball up on him," Girardi said. "It's pretty impressive."

Lindgren was drafted last June in the second round and given a $1.1 million signing bonus. Lindgren's ascent has been quick and while he said it is not totally surprising, he had to earn his way to the big league club.

"Them picking a reliever kind of high, I guess there's always that chance [of being called-up]," he said. "But I kind of had to pitch my game and show them what I could do. I guess they thought it was good enough to bring me up."

Lindgren came to New York late Saturday night and he said it was his first time in the city. Lindgren's hometown is Bay St. Louis, MS.

He said he had a little trouble getting into the clubhouse when he arrived to Yankee Stadium on Sunday.

"Hey I'm Jacob Lindgren I got called up today," he said he had to tell someone on the phone to let him in.

Girardi's first time seeing Lindgren was in spring training and said he was most impressed by the amount of ground balls he is able to induce from hitters.

"If you're not used to him, it's kind of uncomfortable because the ball moves late," Girardi said.

Since May 15 Yankee relievers have thrown 26.1 innings (sixth-most in American League) and have by far the worst ERA: 7.52.

Lindgren should help with that.

"I feel like every day I'm getting better and better," Lindgren said. "That's what I always try to do is just get better each day."

Girardi said the most important part for young players is to be able to accept failure and have a short memory. That, he said, often separates players -- even if they have the talent -- from becoming big leaguers and scuffling in the minors.

"That, to me, is the only way you advance in a quick way," Girardi said of failing. "You're going to have some failure in the minor leagues, but you have to be able to say 'OK, that was one day', and let it go."

Ironically, Lindgren hasn't had much failure yet. He said he is just happy to be here and ready to pitch.

"Whenever they call my name, I'll be excited," he said. "I just want to prove myself to them and show them what I could do."

http://www.nj.com/yankees/index.ssf/2015/05/pitcher_jacob_lindgren_called_up_to_yankees_only_a.html

 

“College seniors lack negotiating leverage” 

 

College Seniors Find Little Leverage

May 25, 2015 by J.J. Cooper

 

If the past few years are a guide, some unexpected names will start popping up in the fourth or fifth rounds of the 2015 draft. Names you may not know. Names that may not appear anywhere in the BA 500 list of the top draft prospects.

They’ll be picked because they have talent. They’ve caught some scouts’ eye.

But more than anything, they’ll be tapped because they are willing to cut a deal.

 

They are the senior signs. The players who are picked as much for their inexpensive price tag as their prospect status.

http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft/college-seniors-find-little-leverage/

Baseball America does not permit me to send entire articles. Please click the link to read it.

“That competitive streak will likely outlast his time in baseball.”

 

Arizona Diamondbacks' Bronson Arroyo: no wife, no kids, no problem

 Zach Buchanan, azcentral sports May 22, 2015

Diamondbacks pitcher Bronson Arroyo, recovering from Tommy John surgery, is a budding musician.

The music blaring from Bronson Arroyo's house in Paradise Valley was a bit too loud for the doorbell to be heard. It was 1:30 p.m. on a Monday afternoon.

Arroyo was inside with a buddy jamming on the guitar and singing into a microphone hooked up to a television camera tripod with what seemed to be a clamp from a jumper cable. As he stood next to a largely decorative fireplace with a painting of Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder sitting atop the mantle, Arroyo crooned along to one Vedder's signature songs, "Even Flow."

Outside the door, a reporter and photographer wait to discuss Arroyo's unique views on life, the second of two conversations he's had on the subject in the past month. He's always happy to share his philosophy, each query returned with a five-minute answer.

Essentially, it boils down to one rhetorical question for Arroyo. When you were 16 and hung out with your buddies and did whatever you wanted, life was simple. So why do we let life get more complicated than that?

Eventually, the knocks on the front door cut through the guitar riffs, and Arroyo answers with a smile, wearing a v-neck shirt, jeans and flip-flops. He's rented the house since he signed with the Diamondbacks before last season, the first time he's lived anywhere but a small apartment. He'd never really needed a space that was anything but utilitarian.

 

But now that he's hurt for the first time in his career — he's been out since June with Tommy John surgery, and expected back in the second half of the season — Arroyo has more free time than he's ever been used to. He's trying to fill it with as much fun as possible.

A steady stream of friends flows through the house, lounging by the pool out back or scooting aside a beautiful wooden chess table to play Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! on the original Nintendo Entertainment System. On this occasion, Arroyo's thoughts are centered on plans to solve a Rubik's Cube while holding his breath underwater.

Arroyo is 38, has made millions of dollars in his career and is determined to play until the game has no use for him. But outside of that, as the scene his front door opens upon demonstrates, he's still going on his 17th birthday.

Spreading the wealth

Arroyo is a rich man. You'd just never know it by looking at him. For his former teammate, Cincinnati Reds ace Johnny Cueto, Arroyo's paycheck frustratingly never matched up with his accoutrements.

"Bronson, what's wrong with you, man?" Cueto asked him. "You've got no kids, you've got no watches, you've got no cars. You've got nothing. What do you spend your money on?"

Arroyo never wanted any of those things, so it's hard for him to be upset that there's not a Rolex on his wrist and a Lamborghini in his garage. There's no Mrs. Arroyo on his arm or a mini Arrroyo to be tucked away at 9:30 every night.

That's all by design. Having the first two would detract from his ability to spend money on his friends. Having the second two would get in the way of both the game and his ability to cut loose outside of it.

"I like to keep that youthfulness in a way, in every aspect of my life," Arroyo said. "It just feels very valuable. I watch so many people let it float away without really saying, 'No, no, no, I'm not letting that happen.' So many people are like, 'That's just how it is. You get kids and then you're not allowed to have a beer anymore.' I don't want to do it."

 

Every choice Arroyo has ever made in his life centers on his devotion to baseball. His dad introduced him to weightlifting at age 6, and two years later he was squatting 250 pounds. Baseball and weightlifting were attended to with the strictest discipline. By the time he was 12, Arroyo saw that his friends understood this. If they were going to ride four-wheelers and go fishing in their hometown of Key West, Fla., it was just understood that Arroyo would be there hours later once he was done lifting or throwing.

There was a laissez faire attitude about everything else. If Arroyo wanted a sip of beer around the house before he hit puberty, that was fine.

"(My parents) never made anything a big deal other than taking care of yourself to play this game, maximize that," Arroyo said. "In a way, he gave me an open-ended box over here and gave me some freedom, but we were going to do this thing really, really serious. It probably made me a lot of who I am."

Arroyo has never wavered in his dedication to the game, but he knows it comes with a cost. When healthy, he works pretty much year-round on pitching, and that doesn't leave a lot of time for big trips or deep relationships. By this point, the people in his life understand that.

That's why Arroyo has turned his house into vacation central for the various friends he's made in his life. Very rarely is it empty, and when it is he scrolls through his phone looking for someone to hang out with. If that person is on the other side of the country, Arroyo will buy him or her a plane ticket. If that person has a spouse and kids, hell, bring them too.

This year, he's had much more of an opportunity to host friends. He's still eager to get back in the game — nothing beats the high of a late-and-close situation, he said — but the time away has made retirement look attractive.

"I don't care who you are, how good you eat, we're all just crumbling, man," Arroyo said. "While my faculties are still here and so are my friends and I can have some sort of experience, the older I get the more I feel really pressured to make it happen. Some of the most special people in my life I can probably count on both hands how many times I'm actually going to be around that person until one of us is dead. That's a weird thing to think about."

Reprieve from the pressure

Arroyo has never had to scrape and scrap to make a living like some of his old high school buddies have. But he has succumbed to what he calls societal pressure.

In November 2000, after he made his big-league debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates at age 23, Arroyo married his longtime high school girlfriend. They divorced in 2008. Looking back, he knows it isn't what he wanted. He gave in to what he thought he should be doing, and calls the decision "the one thing I ever felt a coward in life to."

He likens the experience to staying over at a friend's house when he was little. There are different rules, different food, different settings on the thermostat. It's a relief to go home again.

"We all want to just get back in our space and feel comfortable," Arroyo said. "To put yourself in that situation to make you feel that way in adulthood, I just refuse, man. I kind of did that a little bit by getting married, not that I didn't have a good relationship. But it just wasn't my thing."

Since then, Arroyo has been determined to not follow convention for convention's sake. He eschews the more expensive status symbols like a fancy car or huge mansion. Last year he had two girlfriends sharing a room at his house, and he got a vasectomy about five years ago.

He's all for other people accepting those trappings of normal life if that's what they really want, but he's seen plenty of friends bogged down by it all. That's why he feels it's his mission to provide a release, however temporary. When he retires, he wants to build a big compound in Florida where all his loved ones can come hang out and let loose. It might as well be called Bronsonland.

"I feel like it's my duty, man, to frickin' hold it down," Arroyo said. "Because nobody else wants to."

Arroyo isn't looking for some live-fast-die-hard high, though. Just as with his baseball career, he wants to maximize his opportunities to see loved ones once his playing time ends. He figures he's got about 60 to 75 people he'd like to circle back around to and spend some real quality time when that time comes.

He has a similar list in his will, which he updates with regularity. For each person, he plans to record a DVD to be sent out upon his death with a personal message. Arroyo might play a song on one, or offer thoughts on life and existence in another. He wants each person to understand why they were important to him if he goes prematurely.

He hopes they never see the light of day. That competitive streak will likely outlast his time in baseball.

I bet you I can live the most! Ready, go!

"When I think about death, I don't really think about death," Arroyo said. "I think about sitting on a porch and having all these DVDs that I made for everybody. And slowly, one by one, I'm throwing them away because I beat 'em."

http://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/mlb/diamondbacks/2015/05/21/arizona-diamondbacks-bronson-arroyo-guitar-mlb/27730911/